Last year, you, our readers, crowned Peepli Live as the best film of 2010. You also decided that Ishqiya and Udaan both had the best soundtracks of the year. That was our first go at inviting our readers pick their favorite films of the year, which we're sure you would agree is a far more democratic assessment of films than the hundreds of award ceremonies that pop up every other day. It went so well last year that we're excited to do it again. So here's your chance - cast your vote and be heard. Tell us which film(s) gripped you, inspired you, tugged at your heartstrings or just made you fall in love with the movies all over again. 2011 offered an interesting platter of films. There were some unexpected surprises, and a surge of smaller, niche films taking the spotlight (yet again).
However, it was also a successful year for big-budget masala blockbusters coming back with a vengeance. Here are some reminders and our take on the films and albums that stood out. Cast your vote in the comments section below this post (you can vote for more than one) and we'll announce them soon!
The year's first release, No One Killed Jessica, took the country by storm. It was an apt amalgamation of entertaining drama with a solid political message at its core. Never to be left behind, Aamir Khan Productions released two polar opposites, Kiran Rao's love letter to Mumbai, Dhobi Ghat and Abhinay Deo's "S#!t Happens!" comedy Delhi Belly. Both films received critical acclaim, but Delhi Belly walked away with the box office success. And DK Bose!
Speaking of producers playing it right, Ekta Kapoor, otherwise synonymous with the inexplicably popular franchise of rambunctious TV serials, also established herself as a producer of provocative films of substance. After launching ALT Entertainment last year with the innovative Love Sex Aur Dhokha, Kapoor presented Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK's Shor in the City, a captivating film about colliding lives in Mumbai. The icing on the cake for Kapoor and ALT Entertainment, however, was the recent release The Dirty Picture, a film that has rewritten the rules for female-centric narratives.
The smaller films packed just as much of a punch. Onir's multi-layered I Am showed a slice of humanity in contemporary India, boldly tackling issues as diverse as alternative reproduction, Kashmiri political divides, child abuse and homosexuality. The film has been riding a wave of international film festival recognition and awards and deservedly so. Then there was the quiet scene-stealer in the form of Stanley Ka Dabba. Written and directed by Amol Gupte, the film was simple yet profound, and for once didn't show children in a condescending or two-dimensional manner. In a similar vein, I Am Kalam too showed a child's uphill journey from the depths of poverty to literacy and self-fulfillment. And in complete contrast to these films was Bejoy Nambiar's Shaitan, a racy thriller about five young friends who get trapped in a dangerous situation that spirals out of control.
The big-budget potboilers cannot be ignored either. Financially, 2011 saw the box office cash register ringing over and over again, with several films bringing in the big bucks. While Salman Khan-starrer Bodyguard emerged highest earner of the year, his other release Ready also made a splash. Meanwhile, other biggies like Shah Rukh Khan's pet project Ra.One and Ajay Devgan's return to mean action hero in Singham also walked away with a significant chunk of change. Such masala fare has a long-standing reputation of being designed and packaged as money machines more than good cinema necessarily. Perhaps the most deserving of the big earners was Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, a subtle, contemplative look at male bonding from director Zoya Akhtar. Regardless, the repeated box office success of masala films (Zindagi Na...not withstanding) proves that the format isn't going anywhere. However, are they really the shining gems of Hindi cinema in 2011?
Musically, 2011 wasn't a particularly accomplished year for Hindi cinema's composers. The big masala films had their staple "dhinchak" songs, item numbers aplenty, but little to leave a lasting impression. Besides Amit Trivedi's zingy album for No One Killed Jessica, there was Ram Sampath's unapologetically fun contribution to the songs of Delhi Belly and the wonderfully eclectic collaborative album of Shaitan, composed by Prashant Pillai, Amar Mohile, Ranjit Barot and Anupam Roy.
Then there were individual songs here and there that dominated the charts, whether it was Akon's impressive Hindi in 'Chammak Challo' in Ra.One, the incredibly fun rehash of 'Sadi Gali' in Tanu Weds Manu, or Usha Uthup's seductive crooning in 'Darling' from 7 Khoon Maaf. However, the one album for us that absolutely dominated 2011 was Rockstar, composed by none other than A.R.Rahman. Every track held its own, and by blending new sounds and styles to create real gems, Rahman proved once again why he is seen as a musical genius.
So, there you have it, our overview of the year's film and music. Now, it's your turn to vote. Add a comment to the bottom of this post with your favorite film(s) and music album(s) of the year. You can even vote for films and albums not mentioned in this post. Surprise us! The results will be announced in a couple of weeks.